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Creating a Unique and Sustainable Company Culture: Part 1

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Author: Aaron Steed

Contact Aaron Steed

Tags: Corporate Culture, Entrepreneurialism

17.jpgOne of the biggest challenges that comes with running a successful, growing business is maintaining a company culture that is vibrant, dynamic, and productive. Business legends from Paul Orfaelea (Kinko’s) to Tony Hsieh (Zappos) have written books about creating and maintaining a unique and positive culture that quickly become best-sellers. Consultants charge exorbitant fees to try to figure it out and create it for you. But it still remains an elusive and constantly evolving thing, and any CEO who doesn’t consistently keep his finger on the pulse of his company’s culture is ignoring one of the most important facets of his business.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to expand a little on some of my favorite aspects of Meathead’s culture. We may not be Zappo’s-sized yet, but I am very proud of the fact that people aspire to work at Meathead, as evidenced by the cream-of-the-crop employees we are consistently hiring. And once people are part of the Meathead team, more often than not, their fellow employees become their best friends.

The first aspect of our culture that I want to share with you is a cornerstone of our business. It is Community Involvement. One of our founding principles at Meathead is to improve the lives of our employees, customers, and our community.

The main way we do this is providing free moves to women in domestic violence situations. Too often, these women feel cornered and helpless, and are lacking a support system to help them leave. Providing a strong back and helping hand can remove one of the biggest barriers to fleeing an abusive situation. We have been offering these moves since 2001 and will do so in every location Meathead opens, always.

We also find other ways to help, and have fun at the same time (fun at work being another part of our culture I will speak to in a follow-up post). Our Girls’ Night Out events are legendary, and have raised over $60,000 for abused and underprivileged children (through both CASA and the United Way).

And in Christmastime, our macho Meatheads suit up in Santa hats, and visit Assisted Living Residences all over San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties. It is so touching to see our big, strong jocks earnestly singing their hearts out and seeing the kick the elderly residents get out of it. Let’s just say the music isn’t ready for American Idol! But that’s OK, it results in a lot of laughs all around, and sometimes a smile can be hard to come by at holiday time for those who don’t have family to visit them. And, if you are so inclined, you can even hire them (all money goes to the United Way) to deliver carols to a loved one of your choice!

What makes community involvement such a crucial aspect of our culture isn’t simply that it benefits people in need in our community. It’s that it reinforces to every single person at Meathead the importance of looking for ways to help those who may not be as strong, or as comfortable. That lesson continues on throughout the organization. It makes us all a little more charitable with each other, and eager to offer a helping hand to a co-worker. It reinforces that we are a team and a family, and we have each other’s back. That mindset also carries over when our guys are in front of the customer. Because they have volunteered in sensitive situations, they are able to pick up on the nuances of a customer’s stress or anxiety about the move, and can deal with it with compassion, creativity, and professionalism. Even if it means grabbing the vacuum out of a harried mother’s hand, and taking over the task for her so she can tend to her children.

For many of our young student athletes, it is the first time they have done volunteer work. We hope that this builds a foundation for them that will carry on throughout their lives. Speaking from my experiences doing the same caroling and moving women in abusive situations, it is intimidating the first time you enter a situation like that. Walking into a huge dining room at an Assisted Living Residence with 300 pairs of expectant eyes staring at you (meanwhile knowing you aren’t gonna belt out carols Justin Bieber-style, more like William Hung-style) is scary!

But 30 seconds into the first song, you feel the warmth and genuine joy radiating from the audience, as they clap along. And even though you are emotionally drained after doing your first move for an abused woman, it’s also inspiring to go home feeling just a bit stronger than when you woke up that morning, because you realize that your muscles do more than look good in a fitted tee; they can actually make a difference in someone’s life. I genuinely hope that my guys grow from these experiences just as I have.

So there’s my first entry about what makes up the incredible culture we have here at Meathead. What I want you to think about is how you can give back, whether personally or by instituting a culture of volunteerism at YOUR business. I’d love to hear your ideas. And I guarantee you, this is one business change you will never regret implementing!

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